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Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 4

June 07, 2017 11:26PM
Chapter Four

Lucas Lodge
November 28, 1811

It was a relief to Elizabeth, after the day she had experienced, that her family was engaged to dine that evening with the Lucases. Although she could wish to remain home alone, she knew her mother would not countenance her absence. Elizabeth had, however, been allowed the privacy to grieve the passing of Mrs. Powell, spending several hours in remembrances of their time together, the conversations they had shared, and the advice and wisdom imparted to her. More even than her Aunt Gardiner, who Elizabeth had always respected, Mrs. Powell’s guidance, perhaps by virtue of her age, had been especially valued, for on more than one occasion, she had tempered Elizabeth’s opinions and improved her understanding. She suspected that, had she not had the benefit of such guidance, her advice to her sister earlier that day might have been much different. Well-meaning, assuredly, but different and it certainly would have been less pragmatic. She could not know how things would turn out between her sister and Mr. Bingley, but, if he did not return, Jane would have been encouraged to recover from her disappointment.

She did not anticipate the evening spent with the Lucases to afford much pleasure; however, during the chief of the previous day, Miss Lucas had been as kind as to direct Mr. Collins’ attentions to herself. Elizabeth, when she arrived at Lucas Lodge, took an opportunity of thanking her.

“It kept him in good humour,” said she, “and I am more obliged to you than I can express. If you should wish to do so again, I, for one, will be in your debt.”

Charlotte assured her friend of her satisfaction in being useful, and that it amply repaid her for the little sacrifice of her time. This was very amiable, but Charlotte’s kindness extended further than Elizabeth had any conception of, for Miss Lucas’ object was nothing less than to secure Elizabeth from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them towards herself. Such was Miss Lucas’s scheme; and appearances had been so favourable the day before that, when they parted at night, she would have felt almost sure of success, if he had not been to leave Hertfordshire so very soon.

It was with no small despair that, while he had called at Lucas Lodge in the morning, he had not returned thereafter leaving for luncheon at Longbourn and, when Charlotte and the rest of the Lucas family learned of Elizabeth’s inheritance, she feared that Mr. Collins’ affections may have returned to their original object. Charlotte was, however, not long left in doubt that he had been no more successful than before in pressing his suit with Elizabeth and she resolved to attempt once more to draw his interest without, unfortunately, any great success, for the man had arrived at her home mired in gloom and introspection of the injustices he had been required to endure and so he remained for much of the evening.

The Lucases expressed their condolences to Elizabeth on the passing of her friend but, not having ever met the lady, were much more eager to offer her their congratulations on receiving such an inheritance. Elizabeth found that her civility was sorely tested by the suggestion – implied, though never stated – that she had cause to be pleased at the lady’s passing. Mrs. Bennet, of course, could not bear to listen to conversation on that subject and felt it incumbent upon her to express her annoyance over the fact that only one of her daughters was to benefit from it and that surely Lady Lucas would agree that it was undutiful and selfish of a child to ignore the wishes of her mother on the matter. That Elizabeth, being morally, although not legally, bound by her benefactor’s wishes and thus had no choice on the matter, was beyond Mrs. Bennet’s understanding. She interrupted her lamentations on the matter of the inheritance only long enough to complain of Elizabeth’s intransigence in refusing to marry Mr. Collins. Lady Lucas’ patience was sorely tried on the latter subject, for despite Mr. Collins’ absence from Lucas Lodge for much of that day, she still harboured hopes that he might offer for her daughter. Mrs. Bennet’s unhappiness would not deter her from affording Mr. Collins the opportunity to attach himself to her daughter; however, due to the perversity of chance, the numbers of people present and the man’s own abstraction, she was unable to arrange for Charlotte and Mr. Collins to be alone at all before he was required to return to Longbourn. As he was expected to leave for Hunsford in two days, her hopes for her daughter were waning. Nothing she had seen of his behaviour that evening had given her cause for optimism.

Mr. Collins had largely been oblivious to the efforts of Miss Lucas during the course of the evening; and was hardly aware that she had finally deserted him in frustration with the withdrawal of his attentions. It was only when he took his leave of the Lucases that he realized their disapproval and, although not the most discerning of individuals, comprehended that his failure to continue his attentions to Miss Lucas had been poorly received by her family. As he considered the matter later that evening, it became clear that, in choosing to contemplate on the infamy of Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s behaviour and the injustice of his treatment by her father, he had interrupted his efforts in another direction. He was determined to return to Hunsford a betrothed man, for his patroness had demanded it of him. If he could not wed one of his cousins - and his pride would now only allow him to accept Elizabeth - it was his intention to wed another lady and, immediately following Elizabeth’s initial refusal, he had begun to press his case to Miss Lucas. To subsequently learn of Elizabeth’s inheritance had discomposed him greatly. His meditation on Elizabeth’s wilfulness and the benefits her inheritance would have afforded him had she accepted his offer deflected him from his courtship of Miss Lucas. His mourning of the loss of Elizabeth’s fortune was not ameliorated by the knowledge that she had never been his in the first instance. Such subtlety was beyond his comprehension. To his understanding, Miss Elizabeth should have been required to marry him by virtue of his position as heir to Longbourn and her fortune, therefore, his. However, he knew he must accept the injustice inflicted upon him and resolved to return to Lucas Lodge early the next day to resume his courtship of Miss Lucas. If his suit appeared acceptable, he intended to propose that same day. Her father’s approval could be sought, matters concluded to his satisfaction by nightfall and he could return to Hunsford on his schedule.

Longbourn House
November 29, 1811

The next morning, Mr. Collins, sitting in the breakfast parlour with the rest of the family, was preparing to leave for Lucas Lodge when the attention of everyone was suddenly drawn to the window, by the sound of a carriage; and they observed a chaise and four driving up the lawn. It was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides, the equipage did not answer to that of any of their neighbours.

The horses were post, and neither the carriage, nor the livery of the servant who preceded it, were familiar to the Bennets. Mr. Collins, who had been the last to reach the window, was the only one to recognize the equipage and, to the amazement of them all, he hurried from the room with the obvious intention of greeting their guest. Mr. Bennet, believing their visitor to be more interested in his wife and daughters and not at all inclined to entertain guests at such an early hour, escaped hurriedly to his book room.

The conjectures of the remaining six continued, though with little satisfaction, till some minutes later the door was thrown open and their visitor entered, followed slavishly by Mr. Collins. Mrs. Hill made the necessary announcement. It was Lady Catherine de Bourgh of whom Mr. Collins had spoken frequently, fulsomely and with the greatest admiration.

They were, of course, all expecting to be surprised; but their astonishment was beyond their expectation. They all wondered at her presence, although Elizabeth very quickly began to have a suspicion of the lady’s object.

Lady Catherine entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious and sat down without saying a word. No request of introduction had yet been made. Nonetheless, Mr. Collins undertook that office in his usual manner and it was some minutes before it could be completed. Mrs. Bennet, all amazement, though flattered by having a guest of such high importance, received her with the utmost politeness. After sitting for a moment in silence, Lady Catherine said very stiffly to Mrs. Bennet, “This must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening, in summer; the windows are full west.”

Mrs. Bennet assured her that they never sat there after dinner and then, with great civility, begged her ladyship to take some refreshment; but Lady Catherine very resolutely, and not very politely, declined eating anything; and then, rising, said to Elizabeth, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I would have a word with you in private.”

Elizabeth was more than slightly annoyed at such rude, presumptuous behaviour on the part of their visitor. She had never met the lady but what little she had heard – and now observed - did not dispose her to like her. Even Mr. Darcy, she thought, had never been so publicly discourteous. Nonetheless, if she was required to speak to the lady, she preferred to do so with some privacy; however, given the subject she expected to be raised, she wished to have the support of her father.

“I believe that can be arranged, your Ladyship; however, I must insist on my father being present.” she replied.

Lady Catherine appeared about to object when Mrs. Bennet interceded, “There can be no need for that, Lizzy. I am sure you and Lady Catherine can use the small parlour for the purpose.”

“Nonetheless, I must insist on my father’s presence, Mama.”

Mrs. Bennet subsided. Lady Catherine acceded to Elizabeth’s stipulation, albeit reluctantly, and to Mr. Bennet’s book room Elizabeth led her guest. Mr. Bennet, once apprised of the matter, was firm in his insistence that Lady Catherine’s interview with his daughter would be conducted in his presence. Mr. Collins attempted to make himself one of the party and followed them to the door of the book room, but when he made to enter the room, he was informed that the matter did not concern him and the door was politely, but firmly, closed in his face.

Mr. Bennet gestured to the armchairs before the fireplace before seating himself behind his desk, removed from any conversation but ready to intercede should that prove necessary.

Lady Catherine seated herself and looked around the room, her gaze disapproving. She finally deigned to speak.

“Miss Bennet, I presume you can be in no doubt as to the reason I am here?”

“I can assure you, Ma’am, that as your visit is wholly unexpected, I cannot presume to comprehend anything of the sort.”

“Miss Bennet,” replied her ladyship, in an angry tone, “you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. However insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. I was advised by my solicitor as to the disposition of Mrs. Powell’s property and resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.”

“Lady Catherine, as I have not yet even had the opportunity to speak to my friend’s solicitors,” said Elizabeth, astonished at such wilful behaviour, “I must wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship hope to accomplish by it?”

“At once to insist upon having you relinquish that which you could have obtained only by the basest of schemes.”

Mr. Bennet stirred. Elizabeth glanced at him briefly, gave a small encouraging smile and returned her attention to her visitor.

“I do not have the pleasure of comprehending you, Lady Catherine. Of what do you speak?’

Lady Catherine grew even more disagreeable.

"I do not know how you prevailed upon my cousin but had she retained the use of her reason, it could not have happened. But your arts and allurements may have made her forget what she owes to herself and to all her family. You may have drawn her in."

"I believe, Lady Catherine, that were I such a person, I would surely be the last to confess it."

Elizabeth could see her father smile. It was, perhaps fortunate, that Lady Catherine had chosen to sit with her back to him, for she would not have been pleased to be a source of amusement.

"Miss Bennet, you do not know who I am! I am not accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the nearest relation Mrs. Powell had in the world. You cannot deny my rights in this matter."

“Actually, your ladyship, I believe your daughter is Mrs. Powell’s nearest relation and that only by marriage. She is nothing to you as the kinship is through marriage on both sides. Is that not true?”

Lady Catherine coloured and her cane struck the floor forcibly. "Let me be rightly understood, Miss Bennet. I speak for my daughter on this matter. Let there be no doubt as to that."

"Very well, but what is that to me? This remains a matter for our solicitors. I have no intention of refusing the inheritance that my friend bestowed on me. Should you, or your daughter, wish to contest the matter, you must deal with the executor of Mrs. Powell’s estate. I can see no reason why I should dishonour my friend’s request."

"Because honour and decorum, nay, interest, demand it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect there to be no repercussions if you wilfully act against the interests of my family. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by everyone connected with us. Your name will never even be mentioned by any of us."

"These are heavy misfortunes,” replied Elizabeth lightly. “But as I have no expectations or wish of moving in such circles, I should, upon the whole, have no cause to repine."

"Obstinate, headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! You are to understand, Miss Bennet, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; I will not be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment."

"That will make your ladyship’s situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me." Elizabeth paused only briefly and continued before Lady Catherine could respond. “I am, I confess, sorry to learn of the diminution of your daughter’s estate. I had supposed it to be quite extensive and her fortune, large.”

“What are you speaking of? There has been no diminution of my daughter’s fortune.”

“I am relieved to hear it. I had assumed that your interest in my small Inheritance was due to some misfortune befalling Miss de Bourgh. I am happy to learn otherwise.”

Mr. Bennet coughed but Elizabeth dared not risk even a glance in his direction.

“What can you know of my daughter’s circumstances?” retorted Lady Catherine.

“Why, only what Mrs. Powell informed me herself in her letter to me that accompanied that from her solicitor.”

“I fail to comprehend what this has to do with the matter.”

“If you will allow me, I shall have the letter brought to me.”

Lady Catherine was about to object when Mr. Bennet rose and said, “I believe that an excellent idea, Lizzy. I shall have Mrs. Hill retrieve your strongbox.”

Lady Catherine nodded reluctantly and waited with notable impatience until Mrs. Hill returned with the box containing Mrs. Powell’s letter which Elizabeth quickly retrieved.

“It serves to illustrate my friend’s thinking when she drew up her will. Allow me to read the relevant portion.” Elizabeth began to read,

“I have no close relatives left, and my nearest relation, Anne de Bourgh, is a distant cousin only through my husband. I believe I have spoken of her to you in the past. Anne is to inherit Rosings Park and has also a sizeable dowry. My small fortune will not materially enhance her position, nor will it, in my opinion, be particularly valued. I have left Anne all my jewelry, excepting one piece, as most of it came to me through my husband’s family and it is appropriate, I believe, that it be returned to someone connected to them.”

Once she had finished, Lady Catherine’s features assumed a pinched look.

“Give me that letter that I may read it myself.” Lady Catherine grabbed for the letter which Elizabeth as quickly withdrew beyond her reach.

“I think not, your ladyship. While I am sure you are trustworthy.“ Elizabeth was not sure Lady Catherine was at all trustworthy but nothing was to be gained by being explicit, “This letter is a personal correspondence and I labour under no obligation to share it. Nor do I wish to have it out of my possession. Should you proceed with your suit to contest the will, your solicitor will, I am sure, be presented with a copy as evidence of my friend’s intentions.”

Lady Catherine anger grew at being so thwarted. "Miss Bennet, I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable and sensible young woman. One who could see the reasonableness of my daughter’s prior claim to Mrs. Powell’s estate. But do not deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away till you have given me the assurance I require."

"And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. I must request, therefore, to be importuned no further on the subject."

"Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. You are cousin to Mr. Collins, are you not? He has informed me of your impertinent nature and selfishness. You refused to marry him, refused to do your duty to your family and your family’s estate. Of what were you thinking? Do you give no credit to the dictates of honour and duty? No! I can see you do not. I am ashamed of you!”

“Neither duty, nor honour had any claim on me in regards to Mr. Collins’ proposal. He is, I concede, a respectable man, but he is not one I can respect, nor do I hold him in sufficient esteem to marry him. I will not sacrifice my future happiness to satisfy some spurious claim of duty and honour raised by someone so wholly unconnected with me. My refusal, I must add, was warmly supported by my father who made known his displeasure at such an attachment.”

“It is not to be borne! The Powells were a respectable family. Mrs. Powell, although occasionally impertinent and disrespectful to those of superior rank, was genteel and ladylike. Is her home to be invaded by a young woman whose family is bereft of any sense of propriety? Oh yes, Miss Bennet! Do not believe me ignorant of the infamous behaviour of your mother and sisters. Mr. Collins has related every detail of their improper behaviour at a recent ball. I was aghast at such revelations and when I learned that such creatures would take possession of my cousin’s home, I was revolted at the prospect.”

“You need say no more, Madam!” interrupted Mr. Bennet, his tone harsh and abrupt. “You have insulted my daughter and my family quite sufficiently. Your manners throughout this interview have displayed such a want of civility as to make your continued presence here undesirable. I must insist that you leave my home.”

Elizabeth was grateful for her father’s intercession. It was not within her authority to request Lady Catherine to leave. She could not help but issue her own final declaration. “As I have said once before, Mrs. Powell is related to you only by marriage and my family is not related to you at all. You claim to speak for your daughter but, as I understand the matter, she is of an age to speak for herself. As she does not, I feel no reason to tolerate your insults any further.”

"And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that you have heard the last from me. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it, I will carry my point.”

In this manner, Lady Catherine talked on, while Mr. Bennet summoned Mrs. Hill and a footman to escort their visitor from the premises. They were at the door of the house, when, turning hastily round, Lady Catherine added, “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I am most seriously displeased.”

Elizabeth made no answer; and, once the door had closed behind her ladyship, turned to her father, smiled wryly, and said, “If, in the unlikely event that her ladyship should once more call upon us, may I hope that she is to be denied entrance?”

Mr. Bennet chuckled, “Were you not amused, Lizzy. It is many months since I can remember having been so well entertained.”

Lady Catherine did not, however, depart immediately. Mr. Collins, attracted by the tumult attending her departure, followed her towards her carriage and they were observed speaking there for some minutes before she was finally assisted into the equipage and departed. Mr. Collins stood watching her carriage drive away and, when it was finally lost to sight, slowly turned and entered the house.

He approached Mrs. Bennet shortly thereafter with uncharacteristic hesitancy.

“Mrs. Bennet, my noble patroness, in the goodness of her condescension, has granted me a few extra days away from those duties of my parish which, though of great importance to her, she has allowed to be of less importance than fulfilling her demand that I find a wife. To this end, I plan to extend my stay until Tuesday or Wednesday next.”

Mrs. Bennet, not being privy to the discussion that had taken place in her husband’s book room, could only suppose that Mr. Collins had informed her ladyship of his failure to secure Elizabeth as his wife, and requested the extra time to direct his attentions to another of her daughters. To forward such, for she hoped to promote Mary as a prospective wife, she was quite agreeable and readily acceded to his request to extend his visit.

“My dear Madam,” he responded, “this invitation is particularly gratifying, because it is what I have been hoping to receive; and you may be very certain that I shall inform Lady Catherine of your civility in the matter. She is very attentive to such matters.”

Longbourn House
Sunday, December 1, 1811

If Mrs. Bennet had understood that Mr. Collins would spend very little time at Longbourn in the days that followed, her consent to his request would not have been so readily given. To her dismay, Mr. Collins had departed immediately after speaking with her and spent the remainder of that day and the next at Lucas Lodge where his arrival was greeted with equal parts of surprise, pleasure and caution, for they had fully expected that he had decided against pursuing Miss Lucas. While his present endeavours were quite acceptable, Miss Lucas and her mother were not insensible to his having withdrawn them before and inclined to offer as much encouragement as was proper. For his part, Mr. Collins could not completely forget the attraction of Miss Elizabeth’s ten thousand pounds and his manner was, as a consequence, somewhat more hesitant than hitherto had been the case.

Charlotte, herself, was tolerably composed. She now felt very close to gaining her object, and had time to consider it. Her reflections were, in general, satisfactory. Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her, imaginary. But, still, it seemed he would propose and would be her husband. Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now reason to believe was within her power; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it. She could not know how soon he would pay his addresses. It mattered little, for, whether it was today or tomorrow or even Monday, they would be gratefully accepted. That he would tender them, she had convinced herself of, for why else would he prolong his stay? He need not have done so, however, she supposed him to believe that the inconstancy of his addresses must require some extra attention on his part. They were quite unnecessary but, provided he made his addresses, she would not worry overmuch about the timing.

The least agreeable circumstance in the business was the surprise it must occasion to Elizabeth Bennet, whose friendship she valued beyond that of any other person. Elizabeth would wonder, and probably would blame her; and though her resolution was not to be shaken, her feelings must be hurt by such disapprobation. However, Charlotte’s concern for her friend’s feelings were lessened by a slight resentment arising out of Elizabeth’s having received an inheritance. Not only was her friend endowed with beauty and wit, she was now in possession of a fortune which would ensure either her future independence or the acquisition of a very respectable husband. It seemed patently unfair that Elizabeth should have so much while she, Charlotte, should have so very little. With such thoughts, she waited for Mr. Collins to declare himself and consoled herself that her friend could have no grounds to criticize her.

Sunday arrived and passed as quietly as it usually did. Mr. Collins was content to ignore Elizabeth and she, to return the compliment. As Mr. Collins was not welcome in Mr. Bennet’s book room, he was perforce required to spend his hours elsewhere and thus took upon himself the duty of preparing his sermon for the following Sunday. The weather being reasonably fine for the time of year, Elizabeth and her sisters could wander the paths of Longbourn’s park unbothered by their cousin.

Mrs. Bennet, lacking a sympathetic ear, for none of her daughters would do, removed to her rooms where she remained for much of the day, even going so far as to take all her meals there. There were tears and lamentations, invective against the wilful and disobedient behaviour of her least favoured daughter and complaints of her own sufferings and ill-usage by everyone in the family. Such was her turbulence of mind at her daughter’s two-fold ill-usage, compounded by a sense of betrayal on the part of her husband who had ever been insensitive to his wife’s fears about her future, that it left her with a disturbance of feelings as to preclude any possibility of sleep. She would not calm herself, exacerbating her nerves by ceaseless thoughts of how no one had any consideration for her feelings. This continued for some hours until finally, grumbling that Mrs. Hill was never present when she was most wanted – not considering that it was by her own consent that Mr. and Mrs. Hill had visited her sister that evening – she left her chamber to venture to the kitchen to make a posset to soothe her nerves.

The house was remarkably silent. She could hear her husband’s snores and huffed in exasperation at the easiness with which he found sleep. He was not cursed with her nerves nor was he cursed with a spouse that delighted in frustrating him at every turn. She huffed again. Her candle cast only a small light but sufficient to guide her through the blackness that surrounded her. When she reached the kitchen, the chill made it at once obvious that the cooking fire had been allowed to die down; however, there were sufficient embers for her to get a small flame going in a matter of minutes. A small pot supported over the fire contained the ingredients for her posset and she settled down to wait until it was warmed enough to drink. So wrapped in her thoughts was she, that the entrance of a second visitor to the kitchen caught her completely by surprise.

“What do you do here?” The tone was almost accusatory, although why he should adopt such an attitude was beyond her comprehension, for who had a better right to be in the kitchen than the mistress of the house? While much of her anger that evening had been directed at her daughter, she harboured some sense of ill-usage by the gentleman himself. Surely, could he not, with all his advantages of education and position, have made his offer to her daughter in a manner which could have induced her to accept it? Her exasperation coloured the tone of her voice.

“I find a need for a posset, Mr. Collins. I might well inquire as to your presence, sir.”

“I heard someone about and, in a house as ill-run as this, I feared an intruder.”

Mrs. Bennet snorted. She thought it more likely he was down counting the spoons and silverware to assess what would become his in the future. Mr. Collins, with a perspicuity unusual for him, took offence at this reaction.

“No Mistress of a decent estate would demean herself to fix her own posset, Madam. But that behaviour is no less than what I have come to expect here.” He sniffed contemptuously.

Mrs. Bennet’s ire was stoked by such a response and she replied accordingly, “If Longbourn meets not with your satisfaction, I am sure no one will hold it to your account should you choose to depart earlier than you intended, Mr. Collins.”

He looked at her in amazement, “I planned to leave on Tuesday, and I shall not depart from that plan. I have not yet completed my object in visiting Longbourn but you may be assured I shall not leave unsatisfied.”

There was an air of triumph about Mr. Collins that Mrs. Bennet could not like. “May I inquire as to your meaning, Mr. Collins?”

“I am not at liberty to speak further on the matter, Mrs. Bennet.”

He made a small bow and left the kitchen quickly. Though the light was poor, Mrs. Bennet thought she detected a broad smile on his countenance. If he had every intention of satisfying his purpose in visiting Longbourn, he must still be in pursuit of a wife and from his manner she could only suppose he was meeting with some success. She had hoped to direct his attentions to Mary but he had given her not a minute of attention. In fact, he had left early the previous morning and only returned to Longbourn for dinner; and today he had spent no time with any of her daughters. Mrs. Bennet’s mental acuity was not of a high order but she understood clearly that, if he was not directing his attentions to one of her daughters, it could only mean he was attending another young woman, would offer for her and, without a doubt, be accepted. Mrs. Bennet’s legs suddenly felt weak. Mr. Collins would marry a woman who, when Mr. Bennet died, would have no compunction in turning her and her daughters out of Longbourn as soon as possible. All her worst fears would be realized and she began to feel faint. The room swam around her and she reached for the edge of the table. It eluded her grasp and her last conscious thought was how odd it was that the floor was rising to meet her. Mrs. Bennet’s head struck the side of the table as she fell, knocking her candle off the table and onto the pile of kindling stored beside the fireplace. Of the fire that ignited shortly thereafter, she was spared any thought.

Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 4

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